tv [untitled] November 25, 2011 8:30pm-9:00pm PST
collection, the water garden, started in 1998, had sketched out a few ideas. it was wintertime, january. we had just moved up to mendocino county, and it was raining for two, three weeks, every day, constantly. it took me about two or three weeks to realize i was sort of an absorbing the sensation of water into everything i was doing. oh, i get it. it should be a collection on the theme of water. then i turn it around and it became a more conscious effort to make the rest of the music i was writing sound like it have some element of water, whether it was fast, slow, stillwater. the title of that collection is a slow peace. i always like to think that it feels like the surface of water.
more importantly than that, if the composer, improviser, is connected with an image or story, no matter what that story is, the and the listener who hears it is going to feel that. a man that did the same thing. i may be thinking water and somebody else may be thinking garbage. or somebody might be thinking about a friend of theirs. but still, they feel that connection. something is going on there that is creating an emotional, or maybe a visual image that people are picking up on. i am not quite sure how that ties in. >> it is an interesting point. the performance, of course, has a lot to do with it. one can take a piece by chopin
and play it on the piano in a rigid fashion, that is the way that it was written, but without the proper articulation, the peace can sound somewhat flat. it is the performance that brings out the new ones. without putting you on the spot, i wonder if you could play two ways, robotic without proper articulation, phrasing, and then play it the way you would normally in a concert, so we can hear the difference became a performer brings in what the composer brings. >> i will try. [laughter] >> this is a piece from the water garden. i will try to play it. >> we did not work this out ahead of time.
like acting? no actor, like william shatner, is speaking in a monotone. the idea is to breathe life and experience into the line. that is where the art of it is. >> i think so. i teach a lot of workshops, master classes. one thing i am always encouraging students, guitar players to do is to keep the music movement, so that it does not become static. if you have a note you are sustaining for a long time, you want to have something happening. likewise, when you have notes in juxtaposition to one another, there is a dynamic interplay in between the notes, just as there are between musicians. as a solo player, it is important to accent certain
notes and contrast the dynamics with others. it is like the concept of quinellas and in painting, a little dots, big shots. >> you can play a note by picking it, but there are a lot of ways by playing a note, and there are a lot of different ways that you can hold it. i wonder if you could demonstrate ways of starting and holding a new. >> i guess the term is articulation. guitar, for example, i will just take a couple notes. ♪ i am not doing much with it here. ♪ i am giving, in that static
pattern, which i am making up, i am giving some of the notes more volume, sustaining some of the notes longer come bending some of the notes, approaching them differently. that, i think, is a critical part. it is a way of orchestrating music for the guitar, for example. one of the reason the guitar is such a popular instrument, you can directly control -- your fingers are on what is vibrating. you can feel it and feel when you are making changes. >> and of course, you have i brought up -- vibrato. >> yes, you do. [laughter] let me go bragrab another guitar.
i will play this as an example. ♪ basically, these are all the same pitch. three a notes i am playing, one is open string, one in isfretted. one gets a droney sound. the other has the sound of hitting a drum, and then one gets the vibrato sound. sounds like one -- like more than one note. >> you are creating a rhythmic pattern. not only different dynamic patterns, some notes played louder than others, but they also have different texture. just like any percussionist.
the indian drum is a great example. there is such new ones in the way it is played, it creates such a sense of depth in the rhythm. >> to you think there is a gene for music? >> well, you are the scientists. [laughter] i do not know. my grandfather was a side -- violinist with the san francisco symphony. my father was quite a good pianist. my brother was musical, my sister was not. i have a musical cousin. i do not really know. >> let me put it this way and i will try to stumble through a scientific explanation. let me remind the audience at this point that we are going to take questions in five minutes. there are microphones set up in the aisles. please be ready with your questions.
if you had not become a musician professionally, do you think you would still be playing? >> yes, i think i would still be playing, but everybody should play a little bit, sing -- not everyone feels confident about their medical abilities, -- musical abilities, but it is such an import way to connect. it is, after all, a vibration. whether you are doing it to relax, get excited, to jump up and down, i think it is an import way to connect yourself to something that is a little bit bigger in life. life is a constant stream of vibrations, whether you are in traffic or sitting quietly next to a pond. >> do you feel like you had a
particular talent and was in it, or do you feel for it was an interest that was in aid and you had to work hard to achieve your ability? >> i think of myself as being not a typical musician in some ways. i have a lot of friends who are much more schooled and i am, they read, can play just about anything you put in front of them, but i think what i have been able to do is internalize some experiences and spit them out on the guitar in ways, hopefully, which tells a story. if i was not doing this, maybe i would be writing short stories. i tried painting. i was lousy. but i like the idea. >> just to hammer on this point carter, do you think you got to
where you got because of some brain structure that you have the others do not, or did you get there by hard work? >> i certainly worked hard but i think it was more inclination. i think it was some inherent sensitivity, proclivity toward trying to create sound as a way of expressing who i am. >> there is this 10,000 hour- rule to become a world expert at anything, whether it is a chess player, at fleet, anything. 10,000 hours of practice. do you agree with that, is that possible? >> it sounds plausible. i have been doing this for a long time but i think there was a critical point when i was
younger that i felt i reached a certain point at which i felt like i had enough mastery over my instrument that i could accomplish what i was trying to do. >> on the science side, nobody is really sure, of course, whether there is a gene for music. two of the complicating factors are, a town that grows up in a household full of music will have a different set of learning experiences and in a house where music is not supported. become difficult to separate nature from berkshire because of these in our mental factors. the other thing that is interesting is music manifests itself in some way different ways. not all composers can blame their instruments very well. and not all instrumentalists
compose, and there are for rangers that do not play or compose. you would not say that they are not musical. then you have all of these people who are musical experts, disk jockeys, film supervisors, and they have what we would call musical sensitivity, but it manifests itself in so many different ways, the hunt for a gene is complicated by that. if you are looking for a gene that might give you blond hair, that manifests itself in different ways, but more less is blond hair. musicality is 10 or 12 different things. and to become a great musician requires different personalities. you have to be willing to sit in a room off for hours on end practicing, that kind of willpower, and you have to have a belief in yourself, certainly, for the first few years of musical training, it does not sound very good. you have to believe it has to
amount to something. all of these things come together which complicates the search for a jeanne. >> i certainly lost a lot of hours in my life. >> how many hours a day would you -- would you say you play? >> it depends. it could be none, five minutes, four, five hours. when i am preparing for something, i still get pretty lost. i could sit there for two hours without looking up too much, thinking about where i am. >> before i go to question, i wonder if you could indulge us and play the intro to my favorite song of yours "crossway." >> i will try. it has been awhile. ♪
feel the emotion. why does music trigger in motion? what is going on? let me take that -- >> let me take that. that is an interesting question. that is really the big question in cognitive neuroscience. it is not at all sounds are music. we do not put on records of chickens clucking, waterfalls falling, some of us do, but the real music come from this arrangement of organized sound we call music. i have to say, we do not really know. the closest we have got is music appears to be metaphorical for movement and instruments sometimes sound like a mother singing, crying. and the only thing we know for sure is that music is activating a lot of regions in the brain. i think the best explanation
that i will propose now, tentatively, as it has to do with expectation and release. when we hear a piece of music, because it has a pulse, we almost always know when the next bibelot be, but we do not know what it will be. the job of the composer is to reward us by playing what we expect, but violating those expectations just often enough of the time to keep us interested. when the composer can violate those expectations in an interesting way and give us a resolution that we would have never predicted, then they have got us for life. the brain love learning new things, taught something, and music is, in effect, teaching us something. there is another way to finish this phrase. that may get that burst of dopamine that goes -- yeah! >> earlier, you said that when
we listen to music we activate a pleasure center in our brain. what is happening when we listen to music that we dislike? >> there is a structure called the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. that is activated when we hear music that we do not like. one of the people -- things that people report most that they hate most is when they hear music that they do not like and cannot change it. it is high on the list of most noxious stimulate. we find a subversive, the amygdala kicks in, and it makes you want to run and scream. like the 20th time you heard that brittany -- britney spears song. >> you talked about going from a more intuitive style to more analytical, conscious. was that intuitive on its own?
could you flesh that out a little bit? >> i think that was a bit of necessity. i was asked to put together a collection of my transcriptions in 1990. it was the first time that i had to sit down and transcribe all my music. until then, i had done it in my head. i learned things so fundamental that i did not know i was doing. sometimes i did not realize that there were extra beats, i would change the meter for two bars. in that process, i learned a lot. also, of teaching. when you start to teach, you have to think about what you're doing so you can explain it to somebody else in a meaningful way. i think it was that process of having to write and transcribe music that made me aware that you can analyze something, to benefit, but one needs to be
careful that the analytical side does not wipe out the initial impulse to write music. >> there is that famous story where a music ecologist told john lennon that he ended a song in an alien cadence, and he says, i did? this program is provided by the commonwealth club in forum. tonight we are presenting music. i am here with alex degrassi, a grammy award winning guitarist. we will continue with audience questions. >> you mentioned in your book, and right now, music has a pulse. i wonder what you think or know happens in the brain when music is disjointed, bad. how about classical music?
>> one of the things -- whether you know it or not, whether you are a musician or not -- your brain is trying to predict what is or to come next, just like in speech. if i was going to say, the pizza was too hot to sleep, your brain is surprised because it had a prediction of what was going to come. a skillful physician will break it up harmonically, totally, or rhythmically, and when it becomes hard to predict, it becomes a game. what is your feeling about that? you do a lot of rhythmic changes. >> one of the things that i do a fair amount of -- maybe the question is asking, for example -- you have a piece of music, there is a rhythmic feel, maybe there is a break, a cadence, maybe it is played differently
for a certain period. there is still a flow, as a musician, that you're looking for, to convey. sometimes it seems abstract. i would imagine the brain is also starting to calculate what that flow is. if i am playing along going -- 1, 2, 3, 4 -- >> the brain has to recalibrate. >> the brain is trying to figure it out. >> it is just like in gauging the audience. when i lower my voice like this, i am engaging you because you have to work harder to see what is going on. composers have a variety of tricks in the tool box, and that is one of them. >> thank you. i would like to acknowledge this book, thank you for doing the research, putting into written form.
the chapter that deals with anticipation, which you have been talking about, reflects a particularly western approach. the eastern, buddhist -- a different approach, the genre of music that i have been involved, developing some brain wave research with that -- seems to solicit other kinds of responses. have you looked at other types of music that gets into these spaces between the tones, opens up that quantum field aspect? >> the question about other music is an interesting one. one thing i can say about music of other cultures, each of us is exquisitely attuned to the conventions and rules of our own culture, such that we can hear a chord sequence, we can pretty much nail down what the motion is intended to be. but if i put on chinese opera,
indigenous music of the ural mountains, i will probably not have a clue about it, and they will not have much of a clue about our music. things that we take for granted. major accord being happy, minor chords being said. it is the same as language. we understand the ones we are exposed to. there is a critical period during the first 12 years of life, one needs to be acculturated to those types of music. there are people in the field -- stay tuned -- we will have news about them soon. >> my question is how our brain remembers music. is it processed differently, stored differently than other types of memories? i ask that because, i can remember songs that i sang in second grade but i cannot remember my teacher's name, my friends. >> a lot of that have that
experience. women go to old age homes, some of the last member is preserved in the elderly, even with alzheimer's, other decay, they remember songs from their childhood when they cannot even remember their spouse's name, what year it is. music has thiese musically reinforcing views. in a good piece of music, you have the elements of rhythm, pitch, harmony, meter, articulation, timbre, all working together, so that you may not remember every note, but the ones you do remember inform the missing ones. it becomes a pattern of multiple queues. that is one thing. the other thing we found interesting from girl imaging studies -- narrow imaging studies is when you are
remembering a piece of music, it activates almost identical circuits as when you are hearing it. so much so when you compare the bring activation of someone in imagining music, remembering, to someone listening, it is virtually indistinguishable by looking at the brain scan. i wonder -- and brings up the question, how did it would you say your musical imagery is? when you imagine music, is it like a little tape playing in your head? >> yes, it is. and it works the other way, from the point of view from the composer, trying to compose something. i might be sitting on an airplane and i will remember some experience. let's say running with anticipation, or something you saw. maybe you saw something
spectacular, an illusion of light or something, and it creates an image. i will try to read something done quickly because i am trying to capture one that is. and of course, that stuff is very fleeting. the other thing, musicians who played the guitar, something with your fingers, they feel as if they are remembering in their fingers. oftentimes, you play a passage and you cannot think your way through it. your fingers have to play the way through it. muscle memory. from a scientific standpoint, if i were to scoop your brain out of your head, your fingers would not remember, but there is a motor cortex that remembers the sequence. there is a whole field that studies the sequence, how one movement is remembered in a succession of a sequence. >> the process of creating,
trying to start creating music is not that different for me that it is remembering music. it is revoking some kind of image or movement. -- evoking some kind of image or movement. >> can i ask, i am a musician, do you have any advice -- often have trouble losing -- moving away from my everyday and getting into music. do you have any recommendations on how to speed up that context switching? >> i am assuming that as a professional musician, he doesn't have to do with complicated problems. >> you would not want me doing that. believe me. >> still, you have the context switch of being creative, non
creative. >> that is true. sometimes you need something to wipe the slate clean. it could be taking a walk. these days, disconnecting. i have a studio. when i go there, is a place to work, i did not need to take my cell phone out there. having a physical location you can go to -- this is where i do this -- even just a quarter of your room. >> from a cognitive neuroscience standpoint, if you dedicate a place, if you are religious about it -- or clock 30 i am going to spend an hour -- 4:30 i'm going to spend an hour here or there. that contextual aspect helps. inform is now wrapping up